Do you wish you read more?
When I was around twelve or fourteen, I was a non-stop reader. I could plough through a book in just a day or two. If you needed me, I could be found hiding under the bedsheets with a torch late at night binge reading the latest Harry Potter!
Since then, my reading has been sporadic and inconsistent. Yep, it can be hard to read a book from start to finish when Instagram is winking at you. So my new resolution is to read more during the weekends!
For this reason, I particularly love books that include short stories or essay's, like Caitlin Moran's, 'How to be a Woman' (an all-time favourite). And this weekend, I’ve been getting into a new book of short stories, dipping in and out of the work of Tom Hank's, his debut novel Uncommon Type - seventeen short stories, that occasionally intertwine, with a kinder, gentler view of the world that one can just imagine being narrated by the Oscar-winning actor himself.
I should admit I have a bit of a human-being-crush on Tom Hanks. You know the sort. Which is entirely platonic but you'd love them to come and crash your party one day? I just feel like Tom Hanks would be amazing to show up at a wedding uninvited and just be AMAZING (and be great at dancing). See, I never used to feel this way. It was only when he appeared in the Carly Rae Jepsen music video 'I really, really, really, really, really, really like you', back in 2014 or so that I fell for him like this. To cut a long story short, I have never been the same since (If you till don't know what I'm talking about? Watch it. Or Google Bill Murray wearing THAT red scarf. Yep. You'll get all the feels.)
Therefore, I arrived a sympathetic reader to this first time author when it came to Uncommon Type. From the moment I picked up the book in my hands, I wanted to love it. And, as I read the first page, I found myself hearing Tom Hanks Californian accent narrate this series of quirky stories, that feel a little like a Wes Anderson film, playing out as individual colourful vignettes, jumping around in space and time. I permitted myself to suspend my disbelief, drop criticism about him being a 'celebrity', and waft away on his nostalgic Americana.
Tom Hanks has an obsession with typewriters, which is why he has themed the stories around them. All the stories in the book feature an antique typewriter in some sense, whether a large or little part of the story. Some of the stories crack along at a more scintillating pace than others, but all are enjoyable in their own special way. If you have a long plane journey ahead of you, this could be a great choice because of the variety of stories throughout.
Uncommon Type starts with a humorous tale 'Three Exhausting Weeks' of mismatched friends Anna and the unnamed narrator who decide to date. Anna is an A-Type personality who runs and hot air balloons for fun and the narrator would rather fold his washing, take a nap, and watch TV. The narrative introduces us to these key characters and their friends, Steve Wong and MDash (who is being made an American Citizen). I greatly enjoyed this story, and didn't personally mind that it had little 'point', but rather was a sketch of two different people who can like each other but aren't suited (haven't we all had that experience?).
From here, we meet a World War Two Veteran in 'Christmas Eve' 1953 (with echoes of Saving Private Ryan), 'These Are the Meditations of My Heart' concerns a young woman who finds post-breakup consolation after being matched with just the right Swiss Hermes typewriter, and 'Alan Bean Plus Four' (which was published in 2014 in the New Yorker) sees the four friends from the first story visit outer space in a jump of absurdity that we gleefully sign up to. Each story has a wistful undertone, an escapism of sorts, longing for a simpler time which perhaps never existed, just as Hanks may have a romantic view of the typewriter itself.
Uncommon Type is a book for those who happily will, like me, meander with Hanks through a sometimes a little jumbled set of stories which, nonetheless, all possess their own unique charm. Some may find it too slow paced, but for me, the jumping around suited me fine, like having a conversation with the author or watching a set of short films at a cinema. The book easily digestible, hugely engaging and completely wonderful.
Uncommon Type: Published by William Heinemann: London, part of the Penguin Random House group.